Natural killer (NK) cells have key roles in anti-viral and anti-tumour immune responses. Recent research demonstrates that cellular metabolism is an important determinant for the function of pro-inflammatory immune cells, including activated NK cells. The mammalian target of rapamcyin (mTOR) complex 1 (mTORC1) has been identified as a key metabolic regulator that promotes glycolytic metabolism in multiple immune cell subsets. Glycolysis is integrally linked to pro-inflammatory immune responses such that activated NK cells and effector T-cell subsets are reliant on sufficient glucose availability for maximal effector function. This article will discuss the regulation of cellular metabolism in NK cells as compared with that of T lymphocytes and discuss the implications for NK cell responses to viral infection and cancer.

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